Three Trades That Should Happen Tomorrow
One of the basic tenets of market economics is that free trade allows all parties involved to benefit by exchanging goods that are of more use to others than they are to themselves. You have lots of berries, I have lots of meat, let’s make a deal and we’ll all have better meals.
Baseball generally doesn’t work this way. Teams become overly attached to their own players and generally don’t make trades to balance their organizational talent levels, but instead horde all their players until they believe they are contending, then pay through the nose to acquire the missing pieces.
Sometimes, however, it just makes sense for two organizations to exchange pieces. There are several scenarios playing out right now where clubs have giant holes at specific positions and are overloaded at other spots, making for an inefficient use of resources. For the good of all involved, and because trades are fun, here are three deals that major league clubs should pull off tomorrow.
1. Tampa Bay trades OF Rocco Baldelli to Atlanta for C Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Tampa has too many outfielders. They’ve had too many outfielders for a couple of years now. With Carl Crawford, Delmon Young, and Elijah Dukes, they’ve already got three guys who should be playing everyday. Add in Jonny Gomes as a fourth OF with some power and the reality that B.J. Upton should probably end up in the outfield in the not too distant future, and they don’t need Rocco Baldelli. What they do need is a catcher, however, as Dioner Navarro is pretty horrible and it’s the one position they don’t have any real depth in at the minor league level.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has handed Matt Diaz an everyday job in LF after jettisoning Ryan Langerhans, and he’s a much better fit as a RH platoon partner or fourth outfielder. He doesn’t provide enough offense to make up for his below average defense, and at 29 years old, he’s not exactly the future. There’s also the issue of Andruw Jones impending free agency with no internal replacement, and the Braves are in need of an outfielder, preferably one who can play left field this year and potentially move to center next year. In Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they have the best catching prospect in the game, a switch-hitter with power and a good approach at the plate. In the nice-problem-to-have department, however, Salty has this guy named Brian McCann’s ahead of him on the depth chart, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Salty would be an immediate upgrade over Dioner Navarro for the D’Rays, and provide them with a young star at the one position they don’t have a young star. Baldelli would provide an upgrade over Diaz as the Braves make their pennant push this year and an in-house fallback plan should Andruw Jones not re-sign over the winter. The Braves improve their team using only a resource that has little chance of impacting their team, while the Devil Rays continue to load up for a hostile takeover of the A.L. East beginning in 2009.
2. Chicago trades OF Jacque Jones to Anaheim for SS Sean Rodriguez.
Like the Devil Rays, the Cubs have too many outfielders. Their defense needs Felix Pie in center field, but with Jones, Floyd, Murton, and Soriano running around, they have too many guys fighting for at-bats in a league without a DH as it is. Jones is a consistently underrated player, combining good defense with power against RH pitching, but he’s not significantly better than the guys the Cubs could easily replace him with.
Besides Vlad Guerrero, the Angels just can’t hit. They have gaping holes at LF and DH, with Garret Anderson and Shea Hillenbrand providing the normal below average performance that we’ve come to expect from two of the game’s more overrated players. Playing in the worst division in baseball, their pitching staff is poised to carry them to another playoff spot, but the offense needs help and needs it soon.
Sean Rodriguez has a good knack for hitting but hasn’t made himself a permanent home on the diamond yet, as his defense at short is questionable at best and he’s also spent some time at second base, third base, and in center field. With the Cubs lack of upper level SS prospects, they can afford to hope his bat outweighs his defensive issues at the position. The Angels have no real need for Rodriguez with talents like Erick Aybar ahead of him on the depth chart as it is.
3. Seattle trades OF Wladimir Balentien to Minnesota for RHP Scott Baker.
The Jeff Weaver experiment looks like a failure, and Horacio Ramirez isn’t doing much better. Cha Baek is a AAAA pitcher with no upside, and the Mariners lack upper level pitching depth behind him. So, without making a move, there aren’t many internal options that can help this team patch the back-end of the rotation, or be counted on as useful contributors to the 2008 rotation. The M’s need another effective starting pitcher, and it would help if he didn’t cost $10 million on a multiyear contract.
The Twins, meanwhile, continue to try to contend while punting the left field position. Josh Rabe, Jason Kubel, and Jason Tyner are not the kind of guys who should be splitting at-bats at a power position for a team with playoff aspirations. The Twins could use a left fielder with some power, and with Torii Hunter’s looming free agency, it would help if he was right-handed and under contract for more than just one year.
Meanwhile, the Twins have no need for Scott Baker, who is stuck in the glut of quality pitching prospects toiling away in Rochester. He’s behind live-armed top prospect Matt Garza and strike-throwing machine Kevin Slowey, as well as southpaw Glen Perkins, all of whom are waiting for Sidney Ponson to implode to get a shot at the Twins rotation. Oh, and they get this guy named Francisco Liriano back next year. Baker is buried in Minnesota, but has shown he’s a major league quality pitcher, throwing up a nifty 16/62 BB/K rate in half a season last year and is currently dominating the International League (3 walks, 30 Ks in 30 IP). He’s a strike-thrower without a dominant outpitch, but his stuff is several grades ahead of guys like Cha Baek, and he’d instantly become the Mariners 4th best starting pitcher. He’s also 25 and not eligible for free agency for 5 more years.
Wladimir Balentien, meanwhile, is tearing up the PCL, hitting .357/.430/.625 as a 22-year-old. He’s cut down on his strikeouts and the increased contact has allowed his secondary skills to be lifted by a decent batting average for the first time in several years. He has prodigious raw power and fits into the Twins mold of aggressive toolsy players. As he’s going to be out of options after this season, he’ll have to stick on a major league roster next year, and he’d fill an obvious hole for the Twins. The Mariners are already struggling to find a spot in the line-up for top prospect Adam Jones, and its unlikely they’ll want to break in two young outfielders at the same time next year. As a RH pull hitter, Balentien’s not a great fit for Safeco Field, and by bringing back a young arm that can help the rotation both now and in the future, he’ll provide some immediate value to the franchise.